May 17, 2021

The indigenous people of the Peruvian Amazon on alert for the advance of the coronavirus

The indigenous people of the Peruvian Amazon have declared themselves on alert to the expansion in the country of the coronavirus COVID-19 after the first cases have been registered in the cities of the jungle part of Peru, which occupies 61% of the national territory.

Spread across 55 different ethnic groups, the natives of the Peruvian jungle fear that if the coronavirus reaches their communities it could cause great damage, especially due to the scarce health services they have in their territories.

The Government of Peru, where at the moment there are 3 deaths and 232 infected, has been careful that messages to prevent infections also reach these groups, with messages in the main indigenous languages ​​of the country with advice on how to cover up the elbow when sneezing or frequently washing hands.

At the moment there is already an indigenous leader infected with COVID-19, a disease that he contracted during his stay at the beginning of the month in the Netherlands to denounce the energy company Pluspetrol, with legal headquarters in that European country, for the untreated contamination of the Amazon after operating an oil field.

This is Aurelio Chino, the president of the Quechua Pastaza Indigenous Federation (Fediquep), who despite not feeling symptoms, was tested as soon as he arrived in the country on March 14.

Currently, the leader of this organization of native communities on the Peruvian-Ecuador border is in quarantine in the city of Tarapoto, capital of the San Martín region, with no indication of how serious his health is.


In the face of this exceptional situation, where the Government decreed mandatory isolation for the entire population for at least fifteen days since Monday, a night curfew and the prohibition of any type of transport that is not essential, the Asháninkas of the Ene river chose to close everything his territory.

The Central Ashaninka del Río Ene (CARE), which represents 18 native communities, announced on Thursday that it is declared on “high alert” and will not allow any outsider to enter its space, under threat of being detained by its self-defense and expelled or handed over to the National Police or the armed forces.

In this way, the Asháninkas, the largest indigenous people in the Amazon, want to avoid any unexpected visit, as happened to the Machiguengas this week with a group of Polish tourists who were expelled from their territory.


It happened on Wednesday in the native community of Kirigueti, on the Urubamba river, within the Cusco region, where it is very common for tourism agencies to offer tours to foreigners to indigenous communities or territories.

According to the Machiguenga Council of the Urubamba River (Comaru), the heads of the community blocked access to tourists, who are also obliged to maintain the national quarantine declared by the Government, and took them to a base of the armed forces.

Afterwards, the community leaders themselves isolated themselves from their family for fourteen days as a preventive measure to avoid an eventual outbreak of coronavirus in their territory.

Other organizations such as the Native Federation of the Madre de Dios River (Fenamad), in the south of the country, have urged its members not to travel to cities such as Puerto Maldonado, and to stay in their communities if it is not for a major reason such as an emergency. for health.


In this sense, the Organization of Indigenous Peoples of the East (ORPIO), based in Iquitos, the largest city in the Peruvian Amazon, requested help from international cooperation to be able to go to health centers if they are reached by the pandemic.

The ORPIO also recalled that “more than 60% of the communities lack medical posts and those that exist are short of supplies, do not have equipment or medications, and the intercultural approach is hardly applied.”

To get to these health posts, transportation must be by river and can take at least six to eight hours, but in the most remote cases, up to three days.

He also requested guarantees of integrity for the indigenous peoples in isolation and initial contact, large groups of natives who have voluntarily stayed apart from society according to their customs and ways of life and who are highly vulnerable to any external pathogen.

In Peru, COVID-19 has been officially present since March 6, when the first case was confirmed, and since then contagions have increased exponentially, so isolation was decreed to stop the spread and prevent the collapse of the system. of health.


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